Partners in Mission:
Almost three months ago I wrote to you that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be a generational moment. It has and is but in addition now our nation is being challenged again to face the realities of systemic and institutional racism. As I wrote to NT-NL leaders last Wednesday I believe that the church has a Word for this time and that the political and civic spheres of society recognize that. The Pentecost vision is of a church that is multi-ethnic and multi-lingual reaching across the barriers that divide us economically, socially, and politically and working for justice and against the sin of racism. Your NT-NL Public Witness team and Dr. Robert Smith from Briarwood Leadership Center are partnering with our African descent leaders to develop resources for you on addressing these challenging realities.
This is vital work and, as Holy Trinity Sunday reminds, you do not do this alone. Just as God is in relationship with Godself in the Trinity you are invited into relationship with your neighbor. Relationships that feed you and sustain you with resources and tools to do this work. That is the work you do as part of our synod as well. Together we equip each other for ministry which is why I am encouraging you and your congregation to ask these 5 questions of your ministry now. In addition below are many resources for you and your community in this challenging time that add to my “Resources for You” blog from May.
In-Person Worship: Many of you have asked me about trends across NT-NL in returning to in-person worship. If you have not communicated your plans to us in the synod office or posted them prominently on your website, we will be contacting you in coming weeks. From interactions with you, we have learned context is key. In general, through June 1st, the majority of our congregations continued to offer worship online and not in-person. The exceptions being communities with small numbers of cases who have been either worshipping outdoors or with strict social distancing. That is changing now as congregations, particularly those outside the metroplex, are coming together for in-person worship this weekend (June 7th or in coming weeks). In the DFW Metroplex some have indicated they will begin worship June 14 or 21st with the majority looking at July 5th (or later). Please follow the guidelines we have given you and the checklist for in-person worship.
Counting Online Participation: Your 2020 ELCA Parochial report will include two lines for attendance. One for in-person and another for online. This blog speaks to ways to calculate that number.
Thursday Conversations: New beginning this week (June 11th) Dr. Robert Smith of Briarwood will be offering Thursday gatherings from 7-8:30pm on pertinent topics. The initial conversation will be on how best you can have political conversations in times of crisis. We will explore topics like church/state relations and the concept of Civil Society. These will be very valuable conversations for rostered and lay leaders alike and you can join here.
Stewardship Now and Going Forward: NT-NL’s stewardship team has a host of resources for you and congregations including trained stewardship coaches. Thanks to the good work of this team and your faithfulness in mission many of our congregations are reported continued strong financial results during this pandemic. Our DEM Irma Banales has helped secure $10,000 in ELCA Covid-19 relief grants for congregations in need. The NT-NL Mission Endowment Fund has also loaned approx $20,000 in emergency assistance to congregations. Thank you for your generosity.
Briarwood Summer Programming: Beginning July 6th (conditions allowing) Briarwood is offering you the option of summer BASE Camp Day Camp. This exciting opportunity will be done in compliance with local health guidelines and will give your young people a chance to enjoy this ministry of our synod. Additionally online options are being rolled out. Check the Briarwood Facebook Page.
Coaching Ministry and LEAD Journey: Through ELCA Coaching we have resources available for you to be coached and learn to coach. This also includes grief coaching and the downloadable grief coaching webinar to help you process. Also we are offering your congregation an opportunity to connect with the LEAD Journey at no cost in 2020. These are ways you can ensure you are looking towards the future as we live in this moment.
Support Accompanying our Global Partners: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone is doing gospel ministry and supporting those in need during this time. Your support makes that possible. NT-NL has already sent $10,000 in emergency aid to our partners. With your help we can complete our pledge of $20,000 to support education and feeding programs. Check out their facebook page where you can worship online with them.
Lutheran Men in Mission: The May LMM BOLD gathering featured a diverse group of speakers including a dialogue between Pastor Leroy Cannon and Bishop Hermann Yoos of the South Carolina Synod about issues of systemic racism and remembering the martyrs of Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston. The fifth anniversary of this terrible day is June 17, 2020. The ELCA has designated this a day of commemoration and we encourage you to recognize and utilize the ELCA resources for this day.
These resources are made available to you because of the generosity you and NT-NL congregations have shown. Despite the challenges we face, the festival of the Holy Trinity reminds us that we are invited into community with a God who is already in community. Relationships are key, and as your bishop, it is my honor to be in relationship with you. May God bless you and I pray you will connect with and continue to support the ministries of your local congregation and our wider church.